FF Sparks (Casual)

[Life] I'm Still Alive, Honestly.

So, I don't really use my Livejournal anymore -- I'm on Twitter, and Google Plus, and sometimes Facebook -- but I thought I'd give a quick run-down of things that have happened in the past year or two:

1) I bought a house! This is a very nice two-story house within walking distance of Licton Springs Park, right by North Seattle Community College. I have a front yard and a back yard and a vegetable garden. Yay!

2) I have a second corgi. Claire's older sister Kayla (same parents, different litter) ended up orphaned when her people passed away. With no one left to take her in, the breeder took Kayla back to find her a new home. She's far more affectionate than Claire, and higher-energy, but also rather... we'll go with 'ditzier.' If I were the writer of Hyperbole and a Half, Kayla would be 'simple dog.' Where Claire has figured out primitive tool use, Kayla has issues figuring out the couch.

3) I have a new car; I went electric, and have a Nissan LEAF. Yes, I love it. Yes, the range is sufficient for what I do.

Beyond that, yes, I'm still alive. That is all.
Photography, Camera

[Photography] Tripod of Doom

Bridge by Night
Originally uploaded by RainPacket.
So, I did finally assemble the Tripod of Doom (after several months of bargain-hunting the pieces). Went out this past weekend and took some pictures (and even a short video) with the 5D2 and the tripod. Of course, I'd been sick, thought I was better, and then went out in the cold to shoot and got myself sick as a dog again. (Sicker than before, even. Ugh.)

This shot is definitely going into the photography show I'll be doing several months from now. I may finally have gotten the 'definitive' Aurora Bridge shot I've been trying to get for three years.

In more sober news, one of my aunt's two Aussie shepherds had to be put to sleep on Tuesday. She was old, and just every bit of her body had started to fail. She wasn't in pain, but she wasn't able to move around or do anything either. The vet makes house calls, so came and put her to sleep at home, so she would drift off in familiar surroundings, with her sister and family around her.

Still, always a somber thing to say goodbye to a beloved pet.
Photography, Camera

[Photography] Lighting Workshop

"Challenge" Shot
Originally uploaded by RainPacket.
Last weekend, I had the opportunity to participate in a fashion/lighting workshop held by Dean Zulich. I went along with my friend Shay, who also had a chance to shoot with the 5D Mark II that I got back in December.

A designer, stylist and several models donated their time (in trade for photos for their portfolios). We shot in several challenging lighting situations (outdoors, in bright foggy sunlight, for one... a nightmarish lighting challenge!), and discussed techniques and so on.

In the end of the shoot, Dean issued a challenge; we had one strobe and softbox, and the use of one of the models there. And we could shoot anywhere in the studio or outside, but once the strobe was moved to that area we had five minutes to get our lighting the way we wanted, get the model in position, and get the shot. We had to pick one shot from that five minute challenge to submit to be judged at the end.

In my case, I discovered I still had the 100mm prime on the camera /after/ the timer was running. I could not physically get far enough back to get the wide view I had planned for the shot. So I rethought quickly on the fly and came up with this shot instead. In the end, I won second place, to my surprise! (This image embedded in this post.)

Overall, a good learning experience, made some good photography contacts, and really had a good time. I hope to shoot with some of them again.

Dean's writeup of the workshop is on his blog.
Photography, Camera

[Photography] Revisiting Old Images

Car by Night (Reprocess)
Originally uploaded by RainPacket.
So, I've been tweaking some of my older images lately, trying to make them look better with things I've learned about post-production in the time since. One in particular really stood out to me, my 'Car By Night' shot in False Creek, Vancouver from not quite a year ago.

As for newer shots, the new camera has been working quite well; I'm very happy with the low-light capabilities, and especially with my ability to shoot wide-angle with my lenses now that I have a full-frame sensor. And hey, Canon put out a firmware update to alleviate the black dot issue, which wasn't even really bothering me hugely much. I've even finally got a photography website set up now (though it's a Flash-based abomination, and so I'm not certain if I wish to stick with that design indefinitely!).

There's various family stress still going on, so photography has been a good distraction. (I'll spare you all the details!)
Photography, Camera

[Photography] Giant Shot of Doom...

So... last night I went out with my friend Terence to do some photography. We had two 5D Mark II's (our respective cameras), a multi-thousand-dollar precision tripod (rented from Glazer's), and dedication to do something utterly insane (this bit is innate to the photographers involved).

The real prize of my shots for the night was quite possibly this panorama from Alki. Made up of 20 HDR exposures, the full-size image is 39,304 pixels by 4684 pixels. The image on Flickr is scaled down to only 8593x1024.

I've also made a color-corrected version, which I think I like better in some ways, though I've not yet tossed it up on Flickr. (This copy is also only 8593x1024.)

I suppose my query for my photography friends is... which do you prefer, first of all, and secondly... what the heck should I DO with this image?! Printing it will produce an insanely long banner, and I have no idea how I would even sell such a thing. My panorama of downtown is much more manageable, in terms of dimensions, at a mere 17338 x 5339.

(I have one more panorama to do, of downtown Seattle and Puget Sound from Kerry Park, but I haven't done so yet. That should fall between the other two in terms of dimensions.)

I mean, this was a cool shot, but I sort of went waaaay overboard, and now I have a 1 gigabyte, 16-bit Adobe Large Document file. I really should /use/ this in some way. :)
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FF Sparks (Casual)

[Seattle] Snowpocalypse

Originally uploaded by RainPacket.
So, Fremont is an icy wonderland with 6 inches (and growing) of snow. I've spent far too much of my weekend out on such, though did get a fair number of good pictures. Claire LOVES the snow. I have fallen on the ice twice now, however.

How are my fellow Seattle friends faring in Snowpocalypse '08?
FF Sparks (Casual)

[Life] A Little Warmth in the Snow

Bridge into Snow
Originally uploaded by RainPacket.
Okay, I know I harp on this every so often, usually around this time, but that means this is probably not a surprise to anyone who follows my blog.

Tonight, to make One More Run to the store for One More Thing we forgot, I headed out into the snow with Brent and the dog. And this time I ran into a familiar face from a while back... the woman who used to be the groundskeeper/custodian for the local church. She'd left the job some time back, and apparently her new job had folded. She and her husband had eventually ended up losing their place, casualties of the failing economy. One of the church members who lived nearby had been planning to let them stay the night, but they'd been trapped elsewhere in the snow. So she was stuck waiting outside to see if they could make it back, which seemed unlikely, while her husband looked for other options.

Several of us at the store in this weather decided to help her out; she's a familiar face to the folks in the area, after all. One woman went and bought her coffee. The rest of us put together some money so she and her husband could get a room at the Wallingford Inn for the night. She was planning to go to the church tomorrow and see if they might have some sort of work for her again.

My point, however, is that this cost each of us maybe $3-5, about the cost of a latté at Starbucks, and Anne was nearly in tears of gratitude at the end. This is a season that, regardless of your beliefs, has in many ways become about reaching out to others. And even that tiny little bit can make a huge difference, especially in conjunction with other people.

If you're out in all the snow and ice and see someone out there shivering, trying to sell papers or freezing as they look through the help wanted ads in the paper, offer to get them a cup of coffee, a hot sandwich, whatever. If they say yes, you're out... what, the cost of a latté? Maybe they'll say no, but even the small kindness can brighten a day. /Especially/ at this time of year, and in this weather.
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Photography, Camera

[Photography] New Toys

Sad Lenin in Snow
Originally uploaded by RainPacket.
So, I haven't had a lot to say lately. I've been kind of swamped with work and some family stuff. Still, I'm doing okay; I have gotten back to riding, and I've been doing photography again lately.

In fact, I got a new photography toy... my first true pro camera body. The new Canon EOS 5D Mark II, a wonderful full-frame body with great low-light capabilities.

I went around the other day in the snow, taking a few pictures with the new camera, and got one black-and-white picture I really liked of the Lenin statue in the snow.

Anyway, I hope everyone has been doing well. I'll try to write more soon.
FF Sparks (Casual)

[Riding] Return to Riding

So, as some of you know, back in August I injured my finger riding, just before I left for Europe. So I couldn't ride for the last week and a half before I left. Then when I got back, I was barely home before I set off for Connecticut for work for two weeks. Then I got back and had to finish up a work project to a stopping place.

So this week, I finally got to return to riding; first on Tuesday, then again tonight. In the time since I stopped, the dressage school moved from the old Evergreen facility to one way down at the south end of Lake Samammish. A bit longer drive, to put it mildly, but the facility is nice. A lot smaller than Evergreen, but the barn is lovely and the arenda is meticulously cared for. The stalls are large, each opening both to the inner aisle and to an outer, private paddock attached to the stall. Then there's a giant turn-out pasture where they can be turned out as a herd to socialize and relax.

I had to start out back on the lunge line this week to rebuild muscles. Since Jilly is out with an injury, Debutanté is doing double-duty and I'm on the smaller Indy. (Fabio has finally gone to a new home, and been replaced by a new horse named Bassanova, who I have not yet become fully acquainted with.) It's amazing how much muscle tone you lose in 9 weeks in muscles that are only used for riding. Ow!

Still, just being back on the horse makes me feel so, so SO much better. And the instructor says -- rightly -- that redoing lunge-line exercises when I have to concentrate more will force me to correct some of the lingering bad habits in my posture. Already, she says she sees a marked improvement in posture by the end of tonight's ride from the little bad habits I had before I left. So, yay, improvement!

Debbie was pleased to see me the first night; at first she stuck her head out eagerly to greet me, then seemed to recall 'you abandoned me!' and suddenly turned away. I fished out a carrot, and all was forgiven. On Tuesday, she was mildly miffed that I took Indy out instead of her; by tonight, she actually threw a bit of a tantrum; she reached out of her stall to Indy's (beside her) and yanked all of Indy's blankets off the hangers and threw them on the floor while I was tacking Indy up, until I turned around to pay attention. Le sigh.

Also met a truly beautiful horse belonging to the owner. He's half Clydesdale and half Morgan... no clue who came up with such a cross, or why, but he's beautiful and apparently super sweet-tempered, though he's smart enough to have figured out how to unlatch his own stall and let himself out into the main pasture to graze. (I gather, "Claire! Claire! Bud's gotten out again!" is not an uncommon refrain around the barn.)

At any rate, I'm just incredibly pleased to be back on the horses. I think a lot of my emotional stability depends on my horse time... something so separated from my techy day-to-day life, something where I can unplug myself and be off-the-grid, just me and the horses. Either way, I overall feel like I've taken a deep breath to be able to be riding again.